Archive | August, 2013

A trip down memory lane, Netherlands – 2

29 Aug

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE, NETHERLANDS –2

Netherlands, or Holland as we “Dutchies” call our country, is an interesting place to observe through the eyes of my children.  Having lived here for the first 20 years of my life, it still feels “normal” to me, the way certain things are done – however now they make me ponder as Emile & Filou point things out.

For example, we rented some bikes to take a ride through the Dutch dunes (dunes are the hills that protect Holland against the water) – and when picking up our rental bikes, we were not offered a helmet (something that is unheard of in Canada – especially for children).  Nobody in Holland wears a helmet (except on a road bike maybe).

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Filou getting used to his multi-colour Dutch bike

As a child I would bike 45 minutes to school and back, each day amidst large groups of children – rain,  (lots of wind) or shine.  It was fun (I always had red cheeks – “appelwangen”) and I never felt unsafe. This is of course because the Dutch have this amazing network of bike paths that are completely separate from the roadways.  Emile also found it funny how you lock a Dutch bike – the bikes have a lock attached them, and once you pull a lever down and take out your key, it’s locked and you can leave your bike (Anthony was worried we didn’t have a strong cable to attach it to some solid structure).  But it all seems to work just fine here.

So, after a nice, 1 hour bike ride through the dunes and nature reserve surrounding Noordwijk (we saw a large group of deer and an incredibly large, white snail that caught Emile’s attention)– against, some typical, strong Dutch wind, we reached “het strand” (the beach), where we locked up our bikes, Dutch style, and hiked 5 minutes over a dune, to reach the North Sea.  Emile and Filou had a blast jumping in very high waves, and even Anthony braved the somewhat cold water.

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Walking through the dunes to the Noordwijk Beach

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Like in Canada, water is of course plentiful in Holland, and a trip down memory lane was a visit to the sailing school I frequented as a child. Similar to summer camps in Canada, Dutch kids often go to sailing camp for a week. “De Wijde Aa”, was the name of one of such sailing camps, a place where I hold fond memories.

This camp, located in Roelofarendsveen, has its own windmill where we slept at night, and a variety of small boats, used to teach us the intricacies of manoeuvering Dutch winds.  This sailing camp was educational but mostly very fun with its multitude of different games, activities and songs.

The sailing instructors (usually university students) knew how to make it a good time for all.  One of those instructors in particular left a big impression on this little Dutchie; he was very handsome and incredibly kind and fun with the kids (I remember him making a song about me and my blue hat – I was always wearing this bright blue hat at camp).  A little girl crush, on a guy that I thought had the most beautiful name: Emile.   So, ever since then, I told myself that if I had a son, I would call him Emile.  And so, here I was, with my handsome, firstborn Emile, at the sailing school that inspired his name – very sweet! (the only thing missing perhaps was the handsome instructor Emile – probably now in his 50’s or 60’s. J).

We continued our exploration on the water and took a nice boat ride through the canals of Amsterdam with the family.  The canal houses are so unique and intricate in their design, and boating through the extensive network of waterways in the capital city is a lovely way to explore this “Venice of the North”.  Our good friend Pieter Tol, who we had the pleasure of connecting with while there, lives in one of those beautiful canal houses overlooking the water.  These houses were built deep but very narrow with incredibly steep staircases (I was completely out of breath getting myself to his 3rd.floor apartment), as in the Golden Age, taxes were to be paid on the width of the houses. Now, they are protected and a precious commodity, where each floor is sold or rented separately.

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Emile admiring the “7 bridges” within the Amsterdam canals

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Loving the cool Amsterdam vibe

Also, fun in Amsterdam was the flower market where you can buy any kind of flower bulb (the kids were surprised at the many different colours of tulips – they produce any colour or mix of colour, you can imagine – even a totally black one!).

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Emile and Filou at the Amsterdam “Flower Market” where they admired the flowers and other Dutch products, such as wooden shoes

But the most interesting place to learn about the amazing flowers of Holland is the Aalsmeer Flower Auction or Flora Holland (http://www.floraholland.com/en/), in the city of Aalsmeer (for a few euros you can watch the auction, but be there at 7 am for the best show. At 9:00 am it is all over!). Every day, thousands of the most beautiful flowers and plants are auctioned off here to wholesalers and export companies – that for 80% will distribute and sell them worldwide.  It is amazing to see the incredible sea of coulours – one flower more beautiful than the other.

Once the flowers are auctioned off, and sold, they are transported on the floor, from one location to the next by hundreds of people on “stand up electronic bikes”.  Although the process at the auction is highly computerized, it is interesting to notice that it also still needs a lot of human intervention.  Of course, I knew Holland was a flower land and we always enjoyed a multitude of fresh flowers and plants at home, but I had never been to this auction which gave me a whole new appreciation for its scale  – and reason for which Holland is so famous.

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Some of the many colourful flowers at the Aalsmeer Flower Auction

So as we continue to enjoy more family time, and soon re-connection time with good friends, my trip down memory time continues…

GOODBYE NEWFOUNDLAND and HELLO “HOME”, NETHERLANDS –1

24 Aug

After Twillingate, our intention was to drive to Terra Nova National Park and onwards West to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and take the night ferry from Argentia back to North Sydney.  But as everyone knows, travel is unexpected and so too in this case.  The Marine Atlantic ferry, the one that had taken us to Newfoundland only two days before, crashed into a dock and was beyond repair for at least a month (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2013/08/06/ns-ferry-delays.html), and so the ride back from Argentia was cancelled until Sept. 1.  This forced us to turn back west to our starting point – leaving out all of the eastern part of this gorgeous province.

So after spending a few more fabulous days in Gros Morne National Park, where we enjoyed more incredible views and hikes, and spent a fun afternoon taking in some local tunes (at the Merchant’s Warehouse café in Woody Point, multi-talented Mike Madigan delighted the audience with fun Newfoundland – cod liver oil and sailor – songs, while taking the kids on stage and teaching them to play with the “ugly stick” and spoons), we made our way back safely to Halifax, Nova Scotia where we caught an Iceland Air Flight to Europe – Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

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Emile and Filou having a blast on stage with Mike Madigan, playing the “funny stick”

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At Halifax Airport, leaving for our first transatlantic flight to Europe

As thrilled as Emile & Filou were about their transatlantic flight (they watched movies all night, and never slept a minute although it was a night flight), my personal excitement started to build as well, as the next destination on our list was a visit to my “home country” or should I say, country of origin?  A country I hadn’t visited for 6 years.

To now have the opportunity to show Emile and Filou the many wonderful traditions, culture & sights this unique, little country has to offer, together with my parents (the boys’ Opa and Oma), who are both turning 75 this year, is something to be truly cherished.

After a warm and emotional welcome at award-winning Schiphol Airport, we made our way to Landal Green Parks in Noordwijkerhout (about ½ hour drive from Amsterdam), where we also met up with my sister Caroline, her daughter Amandine (my lovely goddaughter), and my sister’s boyfriend Antoine and his son Leopold (who all live in Angers, France). We took three lovely bungalows at this Landal Dunimar vacation park, located in the heart of the flower fields and close to the North Sea.

To quickly immerse ourselves into Dutch traditions, one of our first visits was a daytrip to Volendam, a fishing village where the older generation is still very proud to wear their traditional attire – and where a fun activity is to dress up in traditional costume and take a picture – something which of course we could not resist doing.  Emile and Filou loved this “dress-up” activity and their half Dutch roots certainly started to show (and for me – what can I say?  A real “Dutchie”!).

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Three Dutchies in Volendam costume

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Opa having a blast in his new outfit

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Opa and Oma with children and grandchildren

And you are not a real Dutchie until you have eaten a raw herring up side down, which Opa was eager to teach the boys to do.  They didn’t like the taste very much, but were a good sport in trying this Dutch delicacy.

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 Little taste of Dutch herring, which is to be eaten like this

On the other hand, there are many Dutch treats the boys LOVE, such as Dropjes (Dutch salty licorice), Vanilla Vla (custard drink the Dutch eat for breakfast – and come in many different flavours – the vanilla one being our favorite!), stroopwafels (syrup wafels), poffertjes (mini pancakes with icing sugar), krokketten & bitterballen (deep fried type meat balls) and fries with sweet mayonnaise (and now they understand why mom never eats ketchup, and chooses the white stuff whenever possible!).  And last, but certainly not least, of course the many kinds of delicious Dutch cheese.

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Fries with mayonnaise, so much better then ketchup!

So next, it was onto Edam, a beautiful, small historic town, known for its cheese production (one that is sold all over the world).  Emile tasted and chose two different kinds of cheese, of which we bought one piece each. We were all astonished at the cheap price of the product; about 7 dollars for these two large pieces of scrumptious cheese, which would easily cost 2 – 3 times as much in Canada!

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Filou in a lovely little cheese shop in Edam

So as we are very much enjoying our family time here, and eating up a wonderful storm – we look forward to another 2.5 weeks in this wonderful country – a place that very much feels like home again – and is interesting to observe through the eyes of my children.  More on that later….

Newfoundland – 4, Twillingate

9 Aug

Upon leaving the beauty of Gros Morne Park, we drove over 400km in pouring rain to reach Twillingate – hoping it would be worth the long trek.  This picturesque fishing town is located at one of the most northern tips of Newfoundland and is known for being a whale watching & fishing haven.

One of the first attractions we saw when we a crossed the causeway to enter Twillingate was the Prime Berth Interpretative Fishing Centre & Craft Studio (www.primeberth.com). It was hard to miss as it boasts a real live skeleton of a whale on the outside – super cool!

Apparently, some years ago, a dead whale floated ashore some 30km from where Captain Dave & his family lived (the whale’s tail was cut off so the locals suspect it got hit by an oil tanker).  Dave called up the local government and asked what they were doing with the whale and subsequently received permission to transport it with his boat to a deserted island, where he and his friend Bill let it rot.  They then proceeded to take the bones and took months to clean and rebuild the skeleton.  They also used other items such as the baleen etc. to put on display at their outdoor fishing museum (a nice educational spot to learn about the fishing trade).

Upon entering the interpretative centre, Bill Cooze welcomed us with his stories, big smile and songs, using an “ugly stick”– a locally made, funny musical instrument – that Filou loved and learned to play a bit.

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Filou with a Newfoundland “ugly stick”

After speaking to the charismatic Captain Dave, we decided that he was the guy to provide our fishing enthusiast Emile with his “dream” trip, and so we booked our tour for 1:30 pm the next day (the locals in town recommended him too, as the go-to guy).  Dave suggested we park our RV at the old fishing wharf – a deserted, beautiful historic place by the water where we ended up having two wonderful nights of rest.

 

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The old Warf – our sleeping spot for 2 nights

The next morning, we first drove up the hill to see the Lighthouse and the famous “Iceberg Alley” – where we did spot an iceberg – although on the very distant coastline.  To fully take in the beauty of this location, we took another gorgeous hike alongside the water, taking in the splendour of the impressive, rocky coast.

That afternoon, the sunshine gods were with us for our boat tour and Captain Dave and his granddaughter escorted us on board for our fishing adventure – with the promise that Emile would catch the biggest fish he ever had.  Dave, quickly realized that our boys like a thrill, so he put the boat at full speed – bumping us over high waves towards our “prime berth” – or best fishing spot.  We flew so high that once we got completely thrown out of our seats, while splashed by fresh ocean water everywhere.  The boys were giddy with laughter and “water girl” had a blast too!

Dave, a very skilled fisherman, had all the appropriate tools on board to get us to the best place for a catch, such as a fish finder (little computer that showed us the “fishing hills” under water).  Once there, he told Emile and Filou to lower their lines (just a really long line with a massive hook and lure on it) and gently pull the line up and down to entice the fish.

Within less then a minute, Emile caught his first cod fish, and Filou quickly followed.  The fish were undoubtedly the biggest the boys ever caught (and might ever catch again!) – Emile’s second fish was close to 8 pounds and looked as big as he is.  The smile on his face was absolutely priceless!

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Emile with his “8 pounder”

Filou who is usually not as excited about having the sit patiently for a catch, thought that this was the right kind of angling: drop a line and immediately wheel in your fish. However, he had to use all of his strength to get the big fish up and once on deck, make sure that the fish tale didn’t flap him in the face!

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Filou trying to keep his heavy “catch” up, and not getting hit by its tale

We kept the two biggest fish for dinner that night and once back on shore, Captain Dave gave the boys a nice show of how the fish are cleaned.

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Everything was filet-ed, up to the fish cheeks, tongue (a delicacy) and even the eyeballs (that apparently have a little piece in them that the fishermen chew like gum!).  What a show!  Captain Dave’s wife was so kind to pack up the cleaned fish for us (even gave us some flower for cooking), and that night we drove to “Little Harbour” a beautiful spot by the ocean, where we chatted with the creative locals (many of whom make beautiful boat models & paint the most gorgeous naval sceneries) and ate the freshest, most delicious fish we ever tasted!

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In Little Harbour, people hanging their laundry and their cod fish

Twillingate was absolutely worth the drive and Captain Dave’s fishing tour was the highlight of our stay there…

Newfoundland – 3, Gros Morne National Park

8 Aug

Gros Morne Park – one of these places that should be on everyone’s “bucket list”!

Gros Morne Park is one of Canada’s national parks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is not hard to see why its distinction, given to the park in 1973, places it alongside such company as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia (which Anthony & I had the pleasure of visiting some 10 years ago – also stunning!), the Pyramids in Egypt or Yellowstone National Park in the United States.  It’s awe-inspiring. Beautiful like none of my words or pictures will come close to describing. Like I said, a bucket list item…. especially for my Canadian friends as Newfoundland is accessible and gorgeous all around, so this is a must!

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The park was designated a world heritage site for its “exceptional natural beauty” and its “outstanding example of representing major stages of the Earth’s history and development”.  The rocks of Gros Morne National Park tell the story of ancient oceans, and the collision of continents.  Many international scientists have already visited the park to study its rock formations.

Upon entering the park, you have two main routes to choose from, one that heads north on Hwy 430 or one that veers towards to west on Hwy 431.

We headed north, and our first stop was one of the lookout points along the highway where we stopped to have a little lunch and take in the incredible scenery. Anthony found the spot inspiring and picked up his travel guitar, while the boys did some crazy dancing and running around!

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Hiking is a must in Gros Morne, and the two hikes we did were completely different but equally spectacular.  The first one was a 10 km walk (which took us about 3 hours) to Bakers Brook Falls  – this path guided us through very lush and dense forests during which we enjoyed mountain views, encountered many a beautiful pond with frogs (which Emile was excited to photograph) and amazing wildflowers…plus at the end, an incredible waterfall (in my opinion, a rival to our Niagara Falls in beauty!).

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Bakers Brook Falls Hike 

We met a lovely retiree with his family at the waterfall – his son, a bit of a daredevil – started climbing the waterfall with his camera.  Filou, who is also a bit of a thrill seeker, was “encouraged” by him and quickly followed suit, taking Emile with him.  The boys actually found a spot on top of the waterfall where you could sit and have an incredible view of the water rushing down. They were delighted, and we took some nice pictures.

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Bakers Brook Waterfalls

Our second hike was a 6 km coastal trail hike (which took us about 2 hours). This walk took us along rugged shoreline and included landscapes of cobble stone beaches, marshy ponds, ocean breezes and many different kinds of shorebirds. Emile was really hoping to see a moose in one of the marshes, as it seemed the perfect place to spot them, but I think that the enthusiastic chatter of the boys probably kept them at bay.Image

Coastal Trail Hike (first part through forest)

Being a water girl at heart (I lOVE to be by, on or in the water), I wanted to take in the beautiful park scenery from the perspective of the water. So we drove to Norris Point and took the Bon Bay Discovery Tour, a delightful, children-focused boat excursion of the bay, plus a visit to the local aquarium.  On board, the boys enthusiastically partook in 3 different science experiments, and learned a lot about the local bay and marine life.  Emile even spotted a bold eagle soaring over the mountains (he has a fantastic eye for nature and often is the first one in the family to spot an animal or something else of interest)!

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Entrance point for our boat tour at Norris Point

In Norris Point, we enjoyed a nice meal out a little local restaurant (bit of an exception as we make most of our meals in the RV!), but the boys were tempted by the promotion of eating a MOOSE burger.  Anthony thought it was quite good, but Emile, who gave it a good try, did prefer his salmon.  Filou loved the local vegetable and turkey soup so much that we took 3 extra containers with us for lunch the next day (keeping up with the food intake for the boys remains a challenge especially now that they are so active and in fresh air all the time – non-stop eating machines!).

We ended up in a KOA campsite in Norris Point (which apparently is a large US chain of campgrounds), a location the boys really loved – mainly because they had a very large jumping cushion (big enough for 10 kids to jump on at once). This attraction provided for many hours of jumping fun – and facilitated the making of some buddies – such as Allen who thought that Filou was a nice “chatterbox” friend to hang out with.  Anthony & I also loved this location as it was a breathtaking spot for a quiet swim, overlooking spectacular mountains.

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Emile diving for the ball at Rocky Harbour

The KOA staff recommended us to go to Rocky Harbour for some children’s activities (again a stunning location!).  The local mothers of the area had organized a scavenger hunt on the beach – the kids were excited to look for anything from a curtain rod to pennies to mittens and goggles. Our team – Emile & Filou, me and 2 local girls put forward a nice effort and were awarded with a black t-shirt that said Rocky Harbour on it – little souvenir that the boys treasure – and can actually take with them (the moms had a variety of prizes such as backpacks, water bottles etc). 

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Filou & Emile in their newly acquired Rocky Harbour t-shirts

In chatting with the locals, we learned that no new developments are allowed in Gros Morne Park since becoming a heritage site, but that one can still build in existing communities that range from 50 to 1500 people.  Also, as work is limited for local women, some work for the Oil Sands – and get flown in from the park every 2 weeks, to work in Alberta.  Challenging for sure – but also incredibly blessed people that live in a place that provides such peace, serenity and incredible beauty!

Next: Twillingate; home of Iceberg Alley, whale watching and most importantly…a fishing paradise for Emile.

Newfoundland – 2, Port aux Basques – Corner Brook – Deer Lake

4 Aug

When staying in many provincial parks, such as we are doing during our time in Newfoundland, it is worth it to buy the family park pass (approx. $20) – as each park will charge you about $5.00 to enter, plus the cost for each nightly camp site. However, Newfoundland is unique in that it allows you to park your RV anywhere you like (at no cost), provided that the location does not have a sign for no camping. This is apparently not that common, and while you do not have electricity or internet for that night – it can potentially save you some money (as each camp site costs about $15-$35).

Our first night’s camp stay was at JT Cheeseman, conveniently close located to the ferry in Port aux Basques.  The campground itself is appropriately named after the “piping plover” – a nice little, protected bird that was nesting there.  Emile & I took a wonderful, early morning hike (yes, we both woke up at 5:30 am – don’t ask me why!) to the local beach – which was a 2 km trek through some lush forest and bird reserve (where we saw blue herons and many other stoic and beautiful birds) – it was so serene – incredible quiet and beautiful. When reaching the ocean, we sat on the shore admiring the waves and early morning mist when all of all of a sudden, at a distant shore line, a fishing boat appeared. Due to the mist we couldn’t see anyone on the boat – so Emile deemed it to be a “GHOST BOAT” (he must have read too many Scooby Doo adventures) – but I agree, it did appear a little creepy for a while!

From Port aux Basques, we continued…to make our way to Corner Brook, where we stocked up on food for our next few days – and bought the kids some colourful, funky, skinny jeans, complete with matching shirts & sunglasses – mainly for their upcoming time in Europe. It was nice to see that they finally showed some interest in dressing cool – and although they still prefer their comfortable sport outfits, and call these regular outfits “fancy clothes” – there seems to be a glimmer of hope for their fashion-conscious Dad – who will undoubtedly like to teach them his sense of style in the near future.

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Overlooking Corner Brook, you’ll find the gorgeous Bay of Islands, where we found the perfect picnic spot.  “Our little piece of heaven” consisted of a wonderfully secluded cove (yes another one with no-one on it – private beach all to ourselves!), gorgeous warm ocean water, overlooking spectacular mountains.  As it was a nice, hot day, the kids were thrilled to stay there and swim the rest of the afternoon. Filou noticed that there were a lot of dead crab shells on this beach, and he pleaded with me to help him collect them. Some of these shells were white, others still a beautiful orange (all found on the beach amidst dried seaweed and the occasional dead jelly fish!). Of course, we are trying to teach the children not to take away from nature – but instead take its beauty with us in our memory (or snap a photograph).  Filou loved the crab shells so much, we decided to make a nice display and snap a shot!

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That night we stayed at a very uninspiring camp ground just past Deer Lake airport – however the park was a privately owned and therefore provided laundry and hot showers (both quite welcome at this point), and all the facilities for us to recharge our RV.  After already some substantial amount of driving behind us, we took it easy this morning, and Anthony ventured into our first bout of homeschooling!  After some initial push-back (it is not September yet- why are we doing school stuff?), Emile and Filou realized it was actually fun to write about their travel experiences so far, and that Papa who they first couldn’t see as their teacher, wasn’t such a bad one after all.

Now it is onto Gros Morne Park, one of the Newfoundland highlights we were all very much looking forward to!

Newfoundland, Canada – 1, RV and Arrival

4 Aug

The province of Newfoundland, Canada has always drawn me, as I’d listen to the tails of immense natural beauty and incredibly friendly folks. So for our last stop in Canada, we have decided to rent a Canadream RV (www.canadream.ca) and tour this province by motorhome for close to 3 weeks.

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This “house on wheels” is incredibly well equipped and smartly designed. Making it our home for a little while is a big thrill for Emile & Filou who enjoy their sleeping arrangements – a cozy, private nest above the driver’s seat.  Also, for the first time, Emile gets to sit in the passenger’s seat and is both helpful and entertaining as Anthony is driving hundreds of kilometers to get us to the many beautiful sights of this gorgeous part of Canada.

After picking up our recreational vehicle in Halifax, and some basic operational instructions, (which were clearly needed as in the first 5 minutes we almost took out the top of a tree!)– we drove our ”beast“ to North Sydney to take the ferry.  The Marine Atlantic provided a comfortable 7-hour ride over to the island (we paid a little extra to have a room with 2 bunk beds which was well worth it!).

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The dinner on the ferry was “pas terrible” according to Anthony and indeed it was not very good at all.  I always assumed that the food in Newfoundland would be similar to that of Nova Scotia but indeed an assumption was all that it was. What Newfoundland might lack in food quality it makes up in absolutely stunning scenery everywhere.  The province is more gorgeous in every way than I could have imagined (with it rugged shore lines, gorgeous secluded coves & beaches, and stunning forestry).  A few days in and already, we feel thankful to have included this part of our country in our itinerary – as it will certainly give us a deeper appreciation of the beautiful nation we call home!

Our tour of Newfoundland: 17-day loop that includes:  North Sydney ->Port Aux Basques->Corner Brook->Gros Morne National Park ->Twillingate->Trinity->St. John’s ->St. Brides/St. Vincent->Argentia.

Nova Scotia, Canada – 2, The Sights

3 Aug

Recommendations of locals is never to be underestimated, and instead of heading for the very touristy Peggy’s Cove, we headed on our first day in Nova Scotia to Coleman’s Cove – a gorgeous piece of uninhabited land on the Atlantic Ocean.  After a nice little hike uphill, we reached a gorgeous, wild cove–with no one and nothing in site except many beautiful, wild rock formations, surrounded by active ocean waves.  The boys were thrilled to climb the multitude of rocks, skinny-dip in a small body of water amidst them, and take photographs of the beautiful surroundings (Emile has found a new passion in photography and is learning from his Uncle Nuno to take good shots, so that he can frequently post them on Instagram – and hopefully get new followers). His address: EmiWata15

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Filou agreed with the owner of the The Shore Club, that Coleman’s Cove is the most beautiful part of Nova Scotia – and happily he still can talk about it as we had a small panic moment, when we did not see him for a few minutes when he so enthusiastically ran off to explore more natural beauty and climb rocks.  Not knowing where he was, even for a split second, is absolutely terrifying when you stand on a massive structure, surrounded by a very wild ocean – and one misstep and fall down will be without rescue possibility. Of course we found him back with the “what are you worried about, happy look” on his face – and after a few tight hugs – the glorious day of exploration continued.

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The next day, we followed another recommendation, and took the Ferry (45 minute return ride, for $5) to Big Tanook Island.  Following a lovely, brisk boat journey, during which we even spotted a seal, we reached this small island that is only inhabited by a few – a place that is great for hiking, bird watching and calm exploration.  After about an hour hike, we reached the island’s Wishing Stone Café – a lovely little place where you can take a break and pick up a complimentary, pretty “wishing stone” promising to make your wildest dreams come true….should you choose to throw it in the water at the adjacent beach. In return for this gift, you make the promise to the café owner to email her, should your wish indeed materialize!  And apparently she had already received several emails from visitors whose wishes came true (pregnancy after years of trying, full-time job etc.).

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Filou was quite enamored by the beautiful wishing stones…and Anthony took the opportunity to give him a lesson in entrepreneurship.  Together they created a concept to sell wishing stones on-line – Filou setting the price of $1.99 per stone, creating the logo and even describing the uniform they should wear – I won’t go into details but it involved black overalls with sparkles on the pockets, a big picture of a wishing stone on the chest and dark flat caps)!  I think with Filou’s creativity and Anthony’s sales techniques – they might have a winning idea and make dreams come true?!

The beach next to the café was a great place for collecting the “wishing stones”, colourful pieces of glass, as well as many beautiful shells. This was another place of tremendous natural beauty with nobody in sight. The shallow water, surrounded by the most beautiful, green & yellow algae made the kids feel that they could run on water (which they did!).   And after taking a nice family picture and leisurely stroll, we took the ferry and some wonderful memories back to the shore of Chester.

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The later part of the week included some wonderful visits with family, as we enjoyed the incredible hospitality of cousin Danielle, Sean and their two adorable sons, Oliver & Quinn (they were addictive – so cute as they were!). Also, we went to admire the new and absolutely stunning ocean property of Auntie Katie, cousin Derek and wife Sandy. There, the kids had an absolute ball playing with their cousins Hanson and Warner.

During the last few days, we made brief stops in Halifax, where we visited the Canadian Museum of Immigration (www.pier21.ca)–an interesting spot that depicts the location where YiaYia, the boys’ grandmother, and her siblings entered Canada from Greece. As well, we spent half a day in Lunenburg, a very quaint fishing town where in the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic (www.museum.gov.ns.ca/fma), Filou got to help re-enact the launch of the Blue Nose 2, a well-known local ship that celebrated its 50th anniversary the day we were there.  And although I absolutely adore coastal towns and everything naval, the stunning natural beauty of Nova Scotia is what will stay with me as the highlight of our time in this beautiful province.

Big thanks to Nuno for the awesome pictures he took of this leg of the trip, Ayako for inspiring Filou to draw and helping Emile decipher the Japanese words in his new favorite collection of Japanese stories, and to Jichan (grandfather) for treating us to this wonderful part of our tour!  This was our second week of family goodbye’s and with some tears we said our “au-revoir” for a year. We will miss you all but look forward to your visits during our time away!